Do you know how to relax pelvic floor muscles or why it’s important? Learn more about caring for pelvic floor muscles by exercising and relaxing them.
When’s the last time you relaxed your pelvic floor muscles? If you’re shrugging right now, it’s probably time to give those muscles a little TLC. Here are a few things you should know about how and why to exercise and relax the muscles of your pelvic floor regularly.
What Are Pelvic Floor Muscles?
Your pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that support your pelvic organs (including your bladder, uterus, and bowel). Pelvic floor muscles play a few important roles. For one thing, they help enhance bladder and bowel control so we don’t have problems with bowel or urinary incontinence. For another thing, they help prevent pelvic organ prolapse (which happens when the pelvic organs protrude into the lower-body orifices.) Yikes!
In addition to these essential functions, pelvic floor muscles also help support good sexual function and may boost the female sex drive. Just like any other muscle in the body, we need to take care of our pelvic floor muscles if we want to keep them healthy and get the most benefit from them.
You may think you don’t need to relax your pelvic floor muscles because you don’t exercise them very often (aside from your regular Kegel exercises, of course). But you might be surprised to discover that the muscles lining your pelvic floor are more utilized than you realize. In fact, you exercise them each time you use the bathroom or hold in your urine while you search frantically for a restroom.
To strengthen these muscles and ensure good pelvic health, it’s important to perform pelvic floor muscle exercises (such as Kegel exercises). It’s equally important to reduce built-up tension in the area by relaxing overactive pelvic floor muscles. Here's what you should know about how to use and relax your pelvic floor muscles to keep them healthy and strong.
What Do Pelvic Floor Muscles Do?
If you’re still wondering, “What are pelvic floor muscles?” here is a brief explanation. The pelvic floor muscles are collectively called the coccygeus and levator ani muscles. They attach to the inner walls of the pelvis. When you have good pelvic health, you don’t have any problems holding your urine in for a little while or having a bowel movement. You’re also more likely to experience pleasurable intercourse and increased sexual sensation.
As with any other muscle in the body, the pelvic muscles can become weak and fail to do their jobs correctly. When this happens, several uncomfortable or embarrassing problems can occur. From bladder incontinence to chronic pelvic pain and muscle spasms, the symptoms associated with weak pelvic floor muscles are pretty undesirable. That’s why Kegel exercises, pelvic floor muscle training, and pelvic relaxation are so important.
How Do You Relax Your Pelvic Floor Muscles?
Learning how to relax your pelvic floor muscles can be tricky at first, but becomes easier with practice. For women with pelvic floor dysfunction, it is especially important to learn how to identify and relax the correct muscles. Pelvic floor dysfunction is the inability to coordinate or relax the pelvic floor muscles when appropriate. This can cause some pretty uncomfortable problems when you need to urinate or have a bowel movement!
To successfully try pelvic floor relaxation, you first need to locate the right muscles. This can be pretty tricky the first time you try (especially if you have a weak pelvic floor), but you can do it! One way to find the muscles you’re looking for is to act like you’re trying to hold in your urine. Do you feel the squeeze along your pelvic floor? If you’re doing it right, you should feel a contraction from your pubic bone to your rectum.
To relax these muscles, you first need to contract them. That way you can identify where they are and concentrate on releasing any tension they may hold. If you have trouble relaxing your pelvic floor to use the bathroom or have intercourse, it’s especially important to learn how to relax those muscles at will.
Here is an effective pelvic floor exercise to try. It encourages lengthening of the pelvic floor muscles, which can bring tension release. To begin, lie down on your back on a comfortable surface (such as a yoga mat or a carpeted floor). Then, spread your knees apart (as if you’re getting ready for a gynecological checkup) and reach your hands between your legs to grab onto your ankles. You may have to lift your head off the floor to grab your ankles, but return it to the ground for the duration of the exercise.
Once you have a firm grip on your ankles, slowly draw your knees up toward your chest while keeping your feet together. While you’re in this position, focus on relaxing each pelvic muscle and all of your abdominal muscles.
Take a few minutes to do deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Imagine each breath sending soothing oxygen all the way down to the muscle fibers in your pelvic floor. Hold this position for a minute or two, then gently release.
Who Needs Pelvic Floor Exercise?
When your pelvic muscles are loose or too tight, they can cause some pretty funky symptoms “down there.” For example, loose pelvic muscles can lead to problems with incontinence and lack of sexual pleasure. On the other hand, if your pelvic muscles are too tight and you have a hypertonic pelvic floor, you can experience symptoms like pelvic pain, inability to urinate or have bowel movements, and frequent muscle spasms.
Hypertonic pelvic floor can also lead to decreased sexual pleasure and could even make sex downright painful. Pelvic floor exercises or pelvic floor therapy can help with hypertonic pelvic floor. If you have a tight hypertonic pelvic floor muscle, pelvic floor physical therapy can help to lengthen and relax it. Your physical therapist may also recommend using a vaginal dilator as part of your therapy. A vaginal dilator is inserted into the vagina to gently stretch the muscles lining the vaginal wall.
How Do Pelvic Floor Exercises Affect My Sex Life?
Many of us ladies are interested in improving sexual health but don’t know how to do it. Pelvic floor exercises are a great first step. Doing Kegel exercises may help make sex more pleasurable by enhancing sexual sensations for both you and your partner. That’s what we call a win/win!